Why Runners Should Embrace Weightlifting
Weightlifting or running? It's always phrased as an "either or" decision. But here's the problem: it shouldn't be. Runners should incorporate weight training into their fitness regimen. You may scoff at the idea of disrupting your cardio routine, but including a weight-lifting program can take your running to a whole new level.
Information provided by the American College for Sports Medicine states that weight-training provides the greatest positive effect on bone mineral density. This can help prevent stress fracture, while decreasing the chances for degeneration. Weight training also improves the strength and size of connective tissues on top of the obvious increases in muscle. Having stronger muscles and connective tissue will decrease the chances of torn ligaments, fractures and muscle injuries. The less time you spend sidelined by injuries, the more progress you can make.
According to this 2003 review by Alan Jung, weight training programs improve your "running economy" or the amount of energy you have to expend on distance running. A person with a higher running economy will spend less energy and oxygen doing the same amount of work as a person with lower running economy, who will be expending more energy and suffering from a performance decrease over time. Through a controlled study, Jung was able to determine that athletes and runners who included a weight-lifting program into their routine had increases in running economy up to 20%.
Where should you start?
Circuit training is great for new runners; it allows you to improve your strength while also keeping the body in motion, providing a cardio and body weight training experience. You won't have to sacrifice a day of cardio to make time for your weight-training; you can do them both at once.
This is a sample plan from Runners Connect:
- Mountain climbers doubles x 10
- Mountain climbers singles x 10 each leg
- Mountain climbers singles out x 10 each leg
- Mountain climbers doubles out x 10
Jog 800 metres
- Push ups x 15
- Burpees x 10
- Hip thrusts x 10 each leg
- Pike press x 15
Jog 800 metres
- Prone with twist x 10 reps each side
- Running motion v-ups x 60 seconds
- Back extensions x 15
- Mason twists x 20 each side, 40 total
Jog 800 metres
- Lunges w/ turn x 10 each leg
- Push-up walk x 15 seconds total
- V-ups x 15 reps
- Squat jumps x 15 reps
The level of difficulty in this plan is minimal, while proper form on each exercise can be seen in this video.
Traditional weight training and "explosive" training are two other options, but they must be attempted with care. These options can carry serious injury risks when performed with improper form. Always be safe with your weight-lifting, even if it means lifting with less weight.
Do's and Don'ts of Lifting
Practise proper form. Improper form in your exercises can lead to serious injury. Safety first at all times with weight-training, no matter how light or heavy the weight is.
Workout with a partner if possible to assist with exercises. This goes back to safety again. We're training to avoid injury, not cause it. Having someone there to watch your back and help you when you need it gives you peace of mind, allowing you to focus on your exercises instead of worrying about potential mistakes.
Give your meals time to settle before you exercise. Eating right before you lift can hurt your workout. The bigger the meal, the longer you should wait. Here's a helpful guideline on wait times.
Don't proceed with your weight-lifting without having a goal or a plan. Lifting without a purpose in mind won't get you anywhere. Plan ahead, and think of how you can best meet your fitness desires.
Don't jump into the most difficult weight-training programs available unless you know you're ready. Fitness is a life-long marathon, not a thirty-second sprint.
Don't neglect your diet. Think of your body as a car: you wouldn't want to fuel up with poor quality gasoline right? Healthy eating habits can help you get the most out of your workout.
Embrace Lifting, or Miss Out
The benefits of lifting as a runner are massive, and can't be achieved in any other way. If you want to reach your true potential with cardio, you have to include weight training in your routine. Don't be afraid of lifting; embrace it, and watch yourself achieve goals you never thought were possible.